Sunday, January 26, 2014

When big numbers are not a good thing

We measure our success in numbers. Even our parishes (and our bishops) measure our ministry by how many people attend and how much is in the Sunday collection.

This year we read St. Matthew, and today we are in the second half of chapter 4, when Jesus calls his first disciples. In order to understand what it means to be a disciple it is helpful to look at another important group in Matthew's gospel, the multitude.

When St. Matthew speaks of the multitude it is not a term of endearment. It is the term for all those who want to come and listen to him. They admire him, and occasionally they will even follow him. But only to a point. Ultimately they abandon him, or sometimes he sends them away.

Much fewer are those who will be disciples. The true disciple is the one who not only goes to see and listen and admire, but the one who is willing to be a true follower.

The true disciple is the one who hears the word of Jesus, steps out of the multitude, is willing to abandon his/her current way of life and follow Jesus.

How many Christians go to church Sunday after Sunday? They want to hear a stirring homily or sermon. They want the choir to sing beautiful music. They want to leave church feeling uplifted and fed. They one thing they don't really want to do is change.

How many of us go to church week after week, but if we look back we are basically the same person we were ten years ago, doing the same things we did ten years ago. If any one of us is basically the same person we were 10 years ago, we are not a disciple, we're just part of the multitude.

The gospel today tells us the story of the first four who were willing to abandon everything to follow Jesus. This abandonment is not something we do once, it has to be constant and forever.

To be a disciple means that every time we read the scriptures, receive communion, or just pray, we open ourselves to be transformed. We abandon the person we are in order to become the person God created us to be. A true disciple of Jesus is never same person from year to year.

What are you willing to abandon?